A Winning Strategy for Duathlon Training
Duathlons are relatively new to the racing community. These exciting two-sport events cut out what for some is the oddball triathlon event: the swim. Swimming is a technique sport, and though it takes a good deal of power, it takes infinitely more grace than running or cycling. The other two events are much more similar to each other, and it is this similarity that can make duathlons less of an ordeal to train for than triathlons.
A duathlon can consist of any mix of cycling and running, although the typical format is a bicycle course preceded and followed by runs of the same length. In effect, the first run replaces what would have been the swim event in a triathlon. Most other events like aquathlon and others attempt to be structurally analagous to the sport of triathlon.
Although a duathlon runs the events back to back, it is best to improve your fitness by working on the legs separately while mixing in the other sports slowly. It is physically strenuous to do repeated cycling and running workouts together; this works out to running a duathlon every day. If, however, you break your focus into running and cycling separately, then you will see better long term results. You can begin to assess yourself with timed duathlon simulations monthly or so as you near race day.
Come properly equipped. Hybrid bicycles can perform adequately on dirt or road, but they are not specialized for either. If you ride the right bicycle, you'll cut off lots of time.
Do not make the rookie mistake of attempting to jump in the lead the first leg. Hold back slightly through the first run, and you will have more energy through the cycle section, which is typically longer.
Practice transitions. Most duathletes know exactly what they are going to do when they get to the transition area. Remember where you racked your bicycle and what gear you need to get going. Instead of drinking from a bottle during transition, strap one into your bottle cage so that you can drink on the move. Races can be won and lost in transition, so try to have your process down pat.
Although saving a little through the first run is a great strategy, saving for the last run is a very bad idea. No matter what, your muscles are not going to want you to dismount. Saving a little energy during the ride might improve your second run time, but it will most likely lose you more time during the ride than you can gain back. Arriving at the second transition is normal; you must simply push through the agony and salvage the second run as much as possible.
If your goal is to win, then set up a similar course and start by trying to best the various leg times. Then, add them together, run a simulation event, and see how close your time is. By evaluating your simulation, you can see which legs you need to improve on the most. Good luck!